Gospel Q&A is a series from LDS Daily that strives to answer important gospel questions from readers. Today, we answer the question, “The people I minister to never respond. What should I do?”
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It can be discouraging when the people we are called to serve don’t seem to want our service. We may begin to wonder what is the point of our service anyway. We may be tempted to think, “They don’t want me here and I don’t want to be here, so I’m done!”
Tempting though it may be, we can’t shirk our responsibilities to minister to others, but there are ways to do it wrong, and there are ways to do it more correctly.
What Not to Do
As a young mom, I was assigned to visit teach a new member of our ward. We’ll call her Tiffany.
Tiffany had a large family and a big heart. When she joined the church, she felt like she had found what had been missing all her life. Not long after, however, Tiffany and her family stopped attending church. She never gave a full explanation as to why, but she did seem to feel her family could worship just as easily from home.
I was on a mission to correct her.
I gave her visiting teaching lessons about the need for the Sacrament.
I reminded her about activities and meetings every week.
I came into her home under the guise of a friendly visit, but wouldn’t leave without sharing a gospel message.
I was pushy.
My actions came from a genuinely good place to see that her family didn’t lose their momentum and their footing on the covenant path, but my approach was blunt and a little judgmental.
What had started out as a friendship turned into Tiffany resenting me. She abruptly moved away and I didn’t know until after she was gone. She left disenchanted and a little angry.
I had thought it was simply my duty to share messages with her and that I was being brave and bold to share them—even when she didn’t really want to hear them.
In point of fact, I was serving myself—not Tiffany—and definitely not the Lord.
What to Do Instead
Tiffany and her family needed to be loved and remembered.
I should have gone to her out of genuine friendship and love unfeigned. I should have concerned myself more with her needs than my own.
Sister Joy D. Jones, former Primary General President, shared a story of a time she and her husband received an assignment to minister to a family in their ward who “hadn’t received visitors in many years.”
Sister Jones continued, “So on our next visit, we approached them with a plate of cookies, confident that chocolate chips would melt their hearts. They didn’t. The couple spoke to us through the screen door, making it even clearer that we weren’t welcome. But as we drove home, we were fairly certain success might have been achieved had we only offered them Rice Krispies Treats instead.”
Are we ever this way? Focused on the cookies and the treats instead of the needs of the families we visit?
Give Them What They Need, Not What You Want
We sometimes get an idea in our heads of the kind of ministering we want to provide (cookies and treats) without much thought about what sort of ministering people need.
Maybe to start, the families we are trying to reach won’t want to see us, return phone calls, or talk to us at the door. Maybe, instead, they’d like a card in the mail, a friendly text message, or a service rendered. Perhaps they need to be invited and included in service opportunities for others.
Don’t put ministering in a box. Instead, pray about how you can start—even in very small ways—to build a relationship.
One thing that can help is by managing expectations. Perhaps send a card in the mail including how you will reach them next. For instance, “In three weeks, I’ll send you a text so you have my phone number.” When you manage expectations and follow through with your plans, it can build trust.
Remember Who You Are Really Serving
King Benjamin taught, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). If our service pours from love and gratitude to the Lord, it will be more sincere.
President M. Russell Ballard taught, “It is only when we love God and Christ with all of our hearts, souls, and minds that we are able to share this love with our neighbors through acts of kindness and service—the way that the Savior would love and serve all of us if He were among us today.”
We must serve our ministering families with Christlike love. We must serve them and not ourselves, providing for their needs, not our wants. We must remember that all service to others is service to God. This will purify our intent and refine our approaches.
Charity never fails. In our ministering, if we have love for Christ and like Christ, we’ve done the best we can do.